Apple approves civil rights audit

A proposal from Apple shareholders last month asking the tech giant to undertake a civil rights audit passed with 54% of the vote at the annual general meeting held in March.

Pushed by the SOC Investment Group, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Trillium Asset Management, the non-binding proposal was initially opposed by Apple management, but spokesman Josh Rosenstock told The Washington Post in a communicated that:

“We are deeply committed to building a more just and inclusive world and will continue to engage with a range of stakeholders as we move forward with our plans to conduct a civil rights audit,” Rosenstock said.

To take part

Although Apple is not required to undertake the audit, failure to do so may have provoked a backlash from employee groups and activists. Organizations including Airbnb and Facebook have already conducted their own civil rights audits, with McDonald’s also set to vote on a civil rights audit soon.

Some shareholders, including the SOC Investment Group, are concerned that Apple has not established comprehensive plans that adequately address the challenges of addressing racial inequality at the company.

In recent years, Apple has faced a number of controversies over the treatment of employees, in addition to being the target of complaints to the National Labor Relations Board. Cher Scarlett, a former Apple software engineer, quit the company after alleging that Apple was blocking staff investigations into pay equity reports.

“They spend money on racial and mostly philanthropic initiatives and don’t really respond to the company’s own policies,” Dieter Waizenegger, executive director of SOC, told MarketWatch. “The diversity director is not part of the C-suite, and there is a very low percentage of black officers in the company. Whatever the company is doing, there seems to be a gap.

Over the past few weeks, racial justice group Color of Change has met with Apple executives to request a comprehensive audit led by an independent auditor who will ensure that any potential issues are recognized and raised. Apple has yet to provide details on exactly how it plans to conduct the audit.

When other tech organizations have launched similar audits, the results have been mixed. Meta, owner of Facebook, received its own audit results in July 2020, led by civil rights expert Laura Murphy, and has, to date, implemented just over half of the recommendations.

Murphy’s Independent Audit also noted that some of Facebook’s decisions were “civil rights setbacks.”

“Many members of the civil rights community are discouraged, frustrated and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while preserving freedom. of expression,” the listeners wrote in the report.

However, Airbnb underwent a civil rights audit in 2016 and racial justice organization Color Of Change called the companies’ efforts a model for big tech peers.

New initiatives

Before the civil rights audit was accepted by Apple, Apple argued that an audit was unnecessary due to the work and commitments it had already put in place. The tech giant previously pledged to provide $130 million for the creation of a racial equity and justice fund shortly after the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

It is unusual for Apple shareholders to go against board recommendations, with this proposal approval being the first time in many years that a shareholder proposal has been voted on.

“We believe our current framework for implementing and monitoring our human rights commitments is more effective than the broad, unfocused audit called for by the proposal,” the board wrote. from Apple.

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